A Michigan woman has escaped ethnic intimidation charges after physically attacking a Black car salesman and using a racial slur.
Shelly Hueckel, 47, was acquitted of the two-year felony but found guilty of misdemeanor assault and battery against salesman Terrance Smith early last year, according to MLive. She was convicted during a Dec. 30 bench trial.
The attack unfolded April 24 when Hueckel attempted to trade in her car at Betten Baker GMC in Lowell, about an hour outside Lansing. Angered over what she was offered, the defendant struck Smith so hard that she knocked his glasses off his face. Hueckel is also accused of using the N-word multiple times.
“The whole situation is so ridiculous … in this day and time, dealing with what I am dealing with,” Smith told MLive at the time, calling it a “huge relief” that Hueckel was being charged with a hate crime.
The case was tried by Kent County Circuit Judge Paul Sullivan, who ruled there was reasonable doubt Hueckel, 47, had acted maliciously with intent to intimidate the used car salesman, saying the assault was sparked by the low trade-in offer rather than Smith’s race.
According to Smith, the woman became upset and demanded he get his “scamming black a– back inside [and] get my title” when he offered her $3,500 for her 2005 Ford F-150 pickup truck. Hueckel claimed she’d been offered $5,500 at another dealership, while her husband said they could probably get about $5,100 at another.
Smith said Hueckel only became angrier and he tried to defuse the situation by walking away. The enraged woman followed him in his office, however, and backhanded him while repeating the racial slur, according to a Lowell police report.
A fellow salesperson who witnessed the incident told authorities that “the customer was arguing and Mr. Smith handed the car title to her, [and] ‘she just started swinging on him.’ Mr. Smith backed away from her and went outside.”
When asked if she had assaulted Smith, Hueckel accused the salesman of “bumping” her when she tried to snatch her title from him.
On Monday, Sullivan described his decision as a “close call” but said he was confident he’d made the right decision under the state’s ethnic intimidation law.
He didn’t hold back in his rebuke of the local woman, however.
“[Your] stupid acts put people like me, like the prosecutor, police, the victim, in this position we are today,” Sullivan told Hueckel, adding: “You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”
The judge’s harsh words were of little consolation to Smith, who said he was more than disappointed with the ruling.
“I did everything I knew to do right in situations like that,” he told MLive. “That was to keep my hands to myself, stay as calm as possible, and do the right thing, and that’s what I did.”
Hueckel’s sentencing is set for February.